Yesterday, the White House released guidelines for "Opening Up America Again," along with the advice to states that governors are going to get to make their own decisions about when and how to start getting back to "normal," whatever that is.
Also yesterday, the governor of my state officially closed school for the rest of the year, and I opened a bottle of wine. But that's unrelated, except that it was an example of individual states making individual decisions based on individual circumstances.
If you read that and feel like it's not the most efficient way to battle a pandemic that affects not just the entire country but the whole wide world, you're not alone. But the governors of some states have a plan for that.
Which brings me to another thing that ALSO happened yesterday (it was really a very full news day). Wisconsin, where I live, announced that it has entered into an agreement with Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky to coordinate plans to "reopen" (which... can we not come up with a better word than that? Reassimilate? Phase something, somehow?). Earlier this week, two other groups of states made similar announcements — Washington, Oregon and California on the West Coast, and New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Massachusetts on the East Coast.
Some people are calling these alliances unprecedented, but I can think of at least two occasions in U.S. history when states have formed similar partnerships. One involved the overthrow of the British colonial government, and the other time they didn't call it a pact — they called it a confederacy.
OK, fine, so nobody's talking about secession. And in fact, all kinds of interstate compacts already exist (for example, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey). But these pandemic-response alliances do feel different and more revolutionary, for reasons that have been articulated by writers who've put a lot more thought into it than I have (scroll down for links).
Honestly, I've probably just got secession on the brain since so many people in the past few years have decided that the best way to express their pride in this nation is to fly the flag under which a group of states waged an unsuccessful war to break away from it. Including at a protest this week in Michigan, which, of course, has a rich Confederate heritage to honor.
It's unlikely — not unpossible, but unlikely — that these virus-response-focused coalitions of states will become breakaway confederacies that will attempt to secede as independent nations.
But if they did... what would they be called?
Presenting the Official Own The Sidewalk Prospects For Names Of New Nations That Almost Definitely Will Not Arise From Interstate Pandemic Compacts!
This one's almost too easy, because it's probably definitely going to be some variation on the name of the ocean. The Independent Nation of Pacifica? The Pacific States of America is too rooted in white supremacy (sorry, Amerigo Vespucci), but maybe just Pacifica, since Silicon Valley will probably have heavy representation on the branding committee, so we shouldn't be surprised when it's got a name like an app or a startup. Close second in my mind would be Cascadia, although when the Big Quake eventually happens, it'll only wipe out as far south as Reading, so that's not quite as universal to the region.
The Eastern coalition includes seven of the 13 original colonies, four from the Middle Colonies and three from New England, so maybe there's something to work with there. Probably everyone would be OK if they just, like, named it after a song from "Hamilton," but there's also a strong case to be made that they would insist on keeping the name "United States of America" since they had it first, and make the rest of the country change to "The New United States of America" or "The Flyover States of America" or "Florida, Etc."
Here is where we have some room for creativity. First of all, look at the range of states. Minnesota is not Michigan is definitely not Kentucky (which, full disclosure, I honestly did not even realize was so close to Wisconsin, so I probably shouldn't be tossing around jabs about other people dismissing entire swaths of the country as "flyover states"). The nice thing about the names is that we have a good mix of consonants and vowels to work with if we just wanted to use initial letters — something along the lines of "Miomiwik" or "Kimomiwi," although that veers dangerously close to being one of those summer camp names that's a made-up "Indian" word, and I feel like this pandemic has done such a good job of stripping bare the systemic racism in our (current) country that it would be a shame to start a new nation on shady racial ground.
Speaking of our indigenous people, probably the right thing to do would be to take it to them and see what they think, since this new country would just be re-stealing their stolen land. Looking at the Native Land map, there would be a lot of nations to consult, but you'd at least want to start with the Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, Kickapoo, Miami, Shawnee, Peoria — you know, that's gonna be a pretty big conference call, so it might be best to just send out a SurveyMonkey and follow up later.
Of course, if we wanted to keep it really simple (even though Chicago would never go for it), we could just call the whole thing Milwaukee, which — as we all know — comes from the Algonquin for "the good land."